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Scientists test brain activity in the wild

Scientists test brain activity in the wild

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Scientists are finding out what happens to our brains when we unplug ourselves from our everyday modern tech toys and bask in nature.

Researchers including University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer say we're so connected to technology it's dulling our sense -- in short, hurting our brains.

"Technology is coming at us at a faster and faster pace. You have text messaging and e-mails and you're interacting on the Internet a lot and phone calls are disrupting you," says Strayer. "There are all these things that keep competing for attention."

Past research shows all those disruptions tend to lead to some level of impairment in the brain. For example Stayer says, driving and talking on the cell phone. He explains, "Their impairments can be as profound as driving while you're drunk."

It's no secret multi-tasking like that is the world we live in now, which researchers say is making us more unproductive.

"The people who multi-task the most who are kind of switching attention between this task and that task actually do so less well than those who don't do it as often," Stayner says.

Stayer and a team of researchers stepped away from technology and headed into Utah's national recreation areas to monitor what happens to the brain when people get away from technological crutches and go into nature or even walk in the park. He admits he and other researchers had doubts about the experiment until he noticed the physical effects.

"You noticed that they started to become much more relaxed, much more contemplative," says Strayer. "And just in general I think that they were starting to feel some of the restorative effects of being out in a natural setting."

Strayer says it wasn't just about camping or taking a vacation.

"Personally (it) kind of made me feel that there was something changing in terms of how you start to notice things and sense things in a much more refined way," he noticed. "Your senses become recalibrated so you can hear noises you didn't hear before and smell, sounds and so forth. You just become more connected to the natural environment."

While this was a small-scale experiment, researchers still recommend making some time to declutter our brains.


Nkoyo Iyamba


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